Ember at Greenbelt Proves Chef Josh Boutwood's Culinary Torch Continues to Burn

The celebrated chef cooks up fuss-free yet delish fare at his newest restaurant.

Ember
Greenbelt 3, Legazpi Street, Makati City
Contact: 0916-420-1600
Facebook: facebook.com/ember.manila
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Thursday), 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sunday)

ember by josh boutwood
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group

(SPOT.ph) As many a food lover in Manila can attest, Chef Josh Boutwood has never been one to shy away from touring less-traveled routes as far as culinary matters are concerned. At The Test Kitchen, he showcases his playful side and transforms simple ingredients into clever nibbles and compositions; at Savage, he explores more primal manners of cooking by way of charcoal, wood, and fire. Boutwood’s newest establishment Ember picks up from the said dining spots and bridges together the two worlds—thus putting the spotlight on what the celebrated chef does best, in an elegant-meets-casual setting.

Also read: 10 Best Tasting Menus in Manila Right Now

ember by josh boutwood
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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ember by josh boutwood
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group

Here’s what you don’t want to miss when at Chef Josh Boutwood’s Ember, a new Greenbelt restaurant:

Located at Greenbelt 3, Ember doesn’t necessarily scream for attention—from the outside it goes for a streamlined look with a number of outdoor seats and glass windows. But step inside and you’re greeted by a snazzy space that’s modern but not intimidating; and simultaneously chic (yup, go ahead and wear your best outfits here) yet relaxed enough that you won’t hesitate to feel at home.

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Ember presents a streamlined space that's elegant and sophisticated, but not at all fussy. 
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group
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Cream and off-white hues dominate, with vertical tiles emphasizing the restaurant’s high walls while cozy grey seats, glossy marble surfaces, and wooden accents contribute a sleek undertone to the overall ambience. Right by the open kitchen is a bar area where you can chill out to a libation or two. And if you go up the slinky staircase to the second floor, you’ll find a cozy private area with glass windows that give you a picturesque view of the main dining area below.

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Cream and off-white hues dominate the walls. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
ember by josh boutwood
Look up and you'll find curved reflective silver surfaces, which also up the snazzy element. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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ember by josh boutwood
Go up the stairs and you'll also find Ember's private dining area, which we could just aboutlounge in all day. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes

While their initial plans definitely involved crossing The Test Kitchen and Savage, Boutwood shares that over the course of Ember’s development it had evolved to have its own distinct identity that set it apart from its predecessors. Similar to Test Kitchen, Ember features an ala-carte menu of starters, small plates, and bigger mains that showcase contemporary combos and flavor profiles; similar to Savage, they do use fire (fueled by ​​sampalok, oak, and santol woods in this case), albeit alongside other means and methods cooking (they’ve also got Tecno Ovens and a French Top stove that runs on gas).

As Boutwood explains, however, at Ember it’s more about the ethos of “serving humble, delicious, and uncomplicated food” that does not limit itself to one single cuisine, and instead weaves together quality ingredients (many local) and elements from different parts of the globe into a cohesive whole.

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Ember aims to serve "humble, delicious, and uncomplicated" fare, Chef Boutwood explains. 
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group

Go ahead and ease your way into your meal on a light note with the Romaine, Parsley, Pecorino (P725)—which we'd liken to a deconstructed caesar salad of sorts. This deceptively simple dish shines the spotlight on crisp yet tender hearts of romaine, with anchovies, a generous shower of finely grated pecorino, and a dollop of parsley puree lending umami and zing to the naturally sweet lettuce. Of course, bread is always a must when at any Josh Boutwood-helmed dining spot; and rightfully, The Test Kitchen Bakery House Sourdough (P295)—with its perfectly crisp-crackly exterior and soft-yet-substantial interior—is a must on the table, especially when slathered with the house smoked butter that’s served on the side.

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Underneath the generous shower of grated pecorino are crisp and juicy romaine hearts and anchovies for added umami. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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Never, ever skip the house bread when at any of Boutwood's restaurants. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes

In the Raw Tuna, Avocado, Tapioca (P550), cured tuna delivers a succulent bite that’s given richness by an earthy puree of avocados. Go ahead and nosh on it plain, or scoop it into the tapioca chips like you would nachos for a happy balance of flavors. On the heftier end of the spectrum (listed under big plates, though it makes for an excellent starter when shared), you’ll find the Bone Marrow, Sourdough, Parsley (P825). This Fergus Henderson-esque platter with slabs of bone marrow, roasted until subtly charred—which also renders the marrow unctuous as heck. Though decidedly decadent, it makes for a stellar spread on the toasted slices of sourdough—especially with the parsley-pecorino puree, which balances the heft of the marrow with its subtle bitterness and zing.

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The Raw Tuna, Avocado, Tapioca small plate delivers a light bite with both Californian and Asian flair. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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Ember roasts hunks of bone marrow and serves it with toasted sourdough, a parsley-pecorino puree, and sea salt... 
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group
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...And your best bet is to get a bit of everything in one bite for a happy mix of unctuous and zingy worlds. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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Meat features prominently on the menu, with Ember taking different cuts of great-quality pork and beef and employing various techniques to render them flavorful and juicy. In the Pork, Raisin, Carrot (P1,250), a thick slab of lean yet juicy pork is simply grilled, then paired with raisin gel and a burnt-carrot puree that imbibe a hint of sweetness and depth when taken with the clean-tasting meat. On the other hand, the Black Onyx Rib-Eye (P7,550/25 ounces) showcases the Ember team’s great hand at aging meat, with its namesake that’s dry-aged in-house for 14 days. From there it’s cooked with oakwood and charcoal and finished with salt—and trust us, it hardly needs accompaniments with how the dry-aging process makes for distinctly nutty (if not subtly caramelized) note.

ember by josh boutwood, Pork, Raisin, Carrot
The Pork, Raisin, Carrot pairs juicy slices of pork with a subtly sweet and spiced raisin gel and an earthy burnt-carrot puree. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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Ember dry-ages their beef in-house for the Black Onyx Rib-Eye—and we can't get enough of the deeply beefy, subtly nutty flavor it delivers as a result. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes

At once homey but also contemporary in execution, the Short Rib, Onion, Wasabi (P1,950) has beef short rib that’s cooked low and slow for 48 hours then finished on the grill, giving the outer edges a welcome hint of char but also delivering an uber- tender bite. Underneath you’ll find an earthy onion puree, while toppings of fried onions and kale add a subtle crispness for textural contrast—and as it’s served, the server pours over a wasabi-peppered beef jus that amplifies all the other flavors. Sides are no mere afterthought here: the Carrot, Honey, All Spice (P225) is pure comfort on a (small) plate with soft and sweet carrots given warmth by allspice, while the Pickled Cucumbers (P195) make for a crisp, vibrant counterpoint to other richer dishes.

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A subtly charred top (plus toppings of fried onions and kale) makes way to an soft and juicy interior in the Short Rib, Onion, Wasabi.  
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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Even the sides—all made in-house—are no mere afterthought at Ember. 
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group

Don’t forget the seafood—of which the Salmon, Watercress, Flying Fish Roe (P1,295) is not to be missed. The salmon is cooked to perfection, such that it’s just on the verge of becoming flaky around the edges but still retains a juicy and melt-in-your-mouth quality that’s totally killer when devoured with the crispy skin underneath. Another standout featuring a fish that’s hard to come by in these parts is the Turbot, Brown Butter, Caper (P2,750), which goes for the classic meuniere method-slash-flavor combo by pairing the flatfish with nutty brown butter and briny capers.

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ember by josh boutwood, Salmon, Watercress, Flying Fish Roe
Ember also definitely knows how to treat their seafood right—as exemplified by the succulent and flavorful Salmon, Watercress, Flying Fish Roe dish. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
ember by josh boutwood, Turbot, Brown Butter, Caper
Turbot a.k.a. flatfish can be found in Manila—and Ember complements its mild, clean taste and firm flesh with a rich sauce of nutty brown butter and briny capers.   
PHOTO BY The Bistro Group
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If you love The Test Kitchen’s signature Kladdkaka a.k.a. their sticky Swedish chocolate cake, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on Ember’s menu as well (P200). Or, go and live out your dairy dreams with the Tres Leches (P395), which sets itself apart from other versions with the clever addition of a squiggle of smoked caramel.

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Boutwood's famous Kladdkaka can be likened to a denser, stickier brownie with Scandinavian flair. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
ember by josh boutwood, Tres Leches
Don't miss the Tres Leches, either—we could just about devour that smoked caramel by the spoonful. 
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes
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The word “ember” itself refers to lumps of wood or coal that remain scorching-hot and glowing, even after a fire is put out. And it’s safe to say Ember the restaurant lives up to that definition—a reliable dining spot with dishes that bank on great execution and stellar flavor, one whose flame will keep burning slowly but surely for the years to come.

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